Pope Francis on the residential school system: ‘I’m so sorry’

Pope Francis today apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

After private meetings between Pope Francis and First Nations, Inuit and Mestizo delegates this week, all parties met with the pope at the Vatican on Friday.

In his remarks, the pontiff said the words that so many have waited so long to hear.

“I want to tell you with all my heart, I’m so sorry,” he said in translated remarks.

Pope Francis also said he would visit Canada.

Beginning in the late 1800s, approximately 150,000 Aboriginal children were separated from their families and forced to attend boarding schools, institutions that sought to replace their languages ​​and culture with English and Christian beliefs. The schools were established by the Canadian government and most were run by the Catholic Church.

Numerous cases of abuse and at least 4,100 deaths have been documented in the former residential schools, where thousands of confirmed, unmarked graves have been found. The last Canadian boarding school closed in 1996.

Since the late 1980s, several religious groups have issued apologies, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008 and the RCMP in 2004 and 2014, each acknowledging their role in the operation of residential schools.

In 2017, during a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the head of the Catholic Church to apologize for his involvement in the Canadian residential school system. But the following year, the church issued a letter saying the pope would not apologize.

This is a last minute update, more to come…

With files from The Canadian Press, CTV National News’ Donna Sound and Creeson Agecoutay, and CTVNews.ca writers Daniel Otis and Ben Cousins

If you are a former residential school student in distress or have been impacted by the Indian residential school system and need assistance, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1- 866-925-4419, or the Indian Residential Schools Service Survivors Society Toll-Free Line at 1-800-721-0066.

Additional mental health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.

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